ST IVES' oldest charity shop, which has raised at least £1 million, is to close because its manager says charity shops in the town are all competing for the same spending power – and the same staff.
The full sum raised by Save The Children in High Street since it opened in 1990 is still being totted up by the charity's head office but volunteer manager Roger Talbot says he expects it to be millions.
Now, however, he says the shop must close after 23 years because dwindling volunteers, high rents and the proliferation of other charity shops in town has made it inevitable.
The shop was started by Geri Pardoe from St Ives and has been run for more than four years by Mr Talbot, 73, who has worked there for 17 years.
Dwindling volunteer numbers due to illness mean the shop now only opens in the morning, and with retail rents sky-high in St Ives and times hard, the shop has become unsustainable, he says.
"My wife Margaret and I do 90 per cent of the work and I have to retire," he said. "The people who opened the shop in the afternoons have already had to stop.
"It's very sad but it's been inevitable. Because younger people with children need to work, their parents – who would normally be our volunteers – are having to do things like babysitting instead. It's hard to replace people.
"The lease is up in February and the rents are very high and the charity isn't prepared to sign another long lease."
The shop boasted 50 volunteers when it first opened but now has just a handful.
Mr Talbot said: "The shop was started by Geri Pardoe whose dedication and hard work made it all happen. There are originals left, like Sandra Maggs and Ann Kent, who have been here from the start.
"We'll all be sad to leave, and our customers are also sad, but they understand the problems we have.
"People from Scotland and London come every year and their first visit will be to us. We've had lots of cash donations through the shop as well as sales. I think it's in the millions, but at least one million. At one point we were raising nearly £100,000 a year.
"Now there isn't just us. There's the Heart Foundation, Sue Ryder, the hospice, the lifeboats and Oxfam.
"It's too many, which is why I think charities will have to decide which towns they should be in because they're all scratching around for the same staff and the same spending money.
"I shall miss it no end but I do hope we'll open another shop in Cornwall.
"This shouldn't be a downer; it's not all doom and gloom."
The Talbots also plan to see more of Cornwall from their Halsetown home.
"There are still things I've not seen in Cornwall because we work seven days a week in the summer and six in winter, like the Lost Gardens of Heligan and Eden – and the Tate," said Mr Talbot.
Save The Children closes on Friday, January 16.